Google (GOOG, GOOGL) debuted its Pixel Fold smartphone at its annual I/O developers conference in Mountain View, CA. on Wednesday. The phone, which—hold your breath—costs $1,799, is Google’s first foldable handset, and its first ultra premium device. The company also unveiled its low-cost Pixel 7A at the show.
Like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4, the Pixel Fold opens like a book, allowing users to take advantage of its front display, or its larger tablet-like internal screen. Google says the Pixel Fold’s 5.8-inch external display should feel like a standard smartphone screen whether surfing the web or viewing TikTok.
That would be a sharp contrast from Samsung’s Z Fold, which uses a larger, though thinner 6.2-inch external screen that can feel cramped while doing things like typing messages. Inside, the Pixel Fold gets a 7.6-inch panel that folds directly down its center line. The Z Fold has a similar internal display, though Samsung’s offering appears to have thinner bezels around its internal screen.
Google also claims that the Pixel Fold is the thinnest foldable on the market whether folded or unfolded. That should come as a relief to consumers who nod to Samsung’s massive Z Fold design.
On the back, you’ll find the Pixel Fold’s telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom, along with its wide-angle and ultrawide angle cameras. On the front, Google has equipped the Pixel Fold with a 9.5 megapixel selfie camera, which does double duty as the phone’s Face Unlock camera. A second selfie camera on top of the internal display lets you do video chats through the large 7.6-panel.
As far as performance goes, the Pixel Fold is powered by Google’s custom Tensor G2 chip and 12GB of RAM. You can opt for 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. Battery life? Google says the Pixel Fold can get more than 24 hours of use on a single charge. We’ll have to see how those claims stand up in real life, though.
All those specs and numbers sound great, but what do they actually do for you? The Pixel Fold, like the Z Fold, is meant to give users a tablet experience in a compact package. The idea is to provide a large canvas to browse the web, watch videos, play games, and take and edit photos.
During my time with the Z Fold, however, I noticed that I spent most of my time using the external display, rather than taking the time to unfold it and use the internal screen. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I simply preferred the outer screen.
That’s not to say there aren’t some interesting uses for foldable devices. For example, Google touts the Pixel Fold’s ability to let users drag and drop content between an app running on one side of the inner screen and another app running on the other side. You can also easily multitask by running two apps side by side.
You can also use the Pixel Fold in tabletop mode to watch movies and TV shows or make video calls hands-free.
If you prefer to read ebooks, the Pixel Fold is also a solid bet, as it will provide a larger display than a regular unfolded phone. But is all that worth $1,799? It depends on your priorities.
For Google, and its parent Alphabet, one thing is clear: it’s not ditching its hardware line anytime soon. Despite a low market share compared to leaders Apple and Samsung, Google seems to be focusing on its Pixel line as a way of diversifying its revenue streams outside of the advertising space.
In its 2022 10K form, Alphabet said its other Google business, which consists of hardware and Google Play sales as well as YouTube subscriptions, brought in $29 billion in revenue for the year, up from $28 billion in 2021. However, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to Google’s advertising revenue of $224.5 billion in 2022.
The Pixel Fold is also coming to market at a time when consumers are buying fewer smartphones as high interest rates and inflation batter electronics sales. However, fold doesn’t need to be a market leader to be successful. It just needs to help Google get a bigger share in the space. But when your main competitors are Apple and Samsung, that’s no easy task.
The Pixel 7A is coming for $499
At the other end of the pricing spectrum is Google’s Pixel 7A. An inexpensive follow-up to last year’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, the Pixel 7A starts at $499 and has a 6.1-inch display with up to a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth on-screen animations.
The phone offers two rear cameras, wide-angle and ultra-wide angle, and features many of the same software capabilities as Google’s more expensive handsets. That includes Magic Eraser, which lets you easily remove unwanted objects from your photos, and Photo Unblur, which, well, unblurs photos.
Like the Pixel Fold and Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, the Pixel 7A gets Google’s custom Tensor G2 chip, as well as 8GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage. The company also promises that the battery life will last more than 24 hours in regular use and up to 72 hours in Extreme Battery Saver mode.
Through Daniel Hawley, tech editor at Yahoo Finance. Follow him @DanielHowley
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